Proposed Urbana budget sees $811,500 in budget cuts

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing proposed a reformed budget that sees $811,500 in budget cuts for fiscal year 2013.

Under the proposed budget, Urbana would see $343,000 in revenue increases from the city’s quarter-cent sales tax increase. The city’s budget would also see $950,000 in cuts, save two amendments that would spend $142,000.

The proposed budget would fill the $1 million deficit with an excess of $154,500.

Budget cuts netting the city $178,500 include closing the police front desk from 11p.m. – 5 a.m., cutting a legal consultant to half-time and two public works employees taking on extra responsibilities after one employee transferred to another county position.

A significant portion of the cuts, $214,000, came from a smaller transfer required for the pension fund. The pension systems’ actuary told the city that they would not have to put as much money into the pension funds as they had expected because their investments had done well in the past year, Prussing said.

“We have been putting in exactly what is required by actuaries,” Prussing said.

The biggest cut to the budget, however, is a $500,000 cut to the health insurance budget. Prussing said last year’s health insurance budget was $2.5 million, but the city was able to keep the expenditures to around $2 million. She proposed that the city do that again this year. Council members are still waiting to hear more on the feasibility of health insurance cuts from their insurance broker.

“We really don’t know how much we’re going to be able to (reduce health insurance spending) for two reasons,” said Eric Jakobsson, Ward 2, in late September. “One is, it’s still not clear what options would be available. Secondly, it’s also a matter of negotiation with unions that represent our employees in the fire department, the police department and our office staff.”

Prussing said the city may have to consider reducing benefits to employees. If it comes down to it, she said the city would be better off reducing benefits to employees rather than firing people so that others can keep their benefits.

Urbana has seen revenue increases of almost 34 percent in the last seven years, according to Urbana property, sales and income tax revenues from fiscal year 2005 through 2012. Mike Madigan, Ward 6, said he found it hard to believe that the city didn’t have more room for cuts and needs to find a more efficient budget.

Eli can be reached at [email protected]